Solar Energy Battery Backup Under Attack in California?

CHICAGO — California is no stranger to rolling blackouts. When Charles and Elke Hewitt installed a solar electric system with batteries for emergency backup power on their home this April, they were shocked when Southern California Edison rejected their application for grid connection under their net metering program. And the Hewitt family was not alone. Soon all homeowners with solar electric systems with battery backup in California could be affected by Edison’s stance on backup power.

Edison informed the couple their application for grid connection was denied because the batteries they used to store energy for emergency backup power when the grid went down were considered “power generators” and not energy storage devices, said Charles Hewitt. Edison said Hewitt did not qualify for their net metering program because the utility could not distinguish between power produced by the solar panels and power produced by the batteries, which it considers a nonrenewable source of power, he said. Edison explained their policy had not changed. It was the equipment that had changed. Members of the solar industry refute Edison’s position.

Written by Lauren Poole. To read the full article, click here.

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Rip Up the Mortgage: Sapphire Energy Pays Off USDA Loan Guarantee in Full

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In California, Sapphire Energy announced it has paid off the loan guarantee awarded to the company by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In Dec. 2009, the company was awarded a $54.5 million loan guarantee through the Biorefinery Assistance Program, administered by the USDA Rural Development-Cooperative Service, to build a fully integrated, algae-to-crude oil commercial demonstration facility in Columbus, New Mexico.

Reached by telephone, Sapphire’s VP for Corporate Affairs, Tim Zenk, confirmed that the company raised an additional round of equity from its current investment group to pay off the loan. “It just makes sense to pay it off, if you have the ability to do so, and save on the interest and debt expense,” he commented. The project continues on track towards producing 100 barrels of crude oil per day in 2015, and at commercial-scale production in 2018.

Key to reaching the company’s goals is the project with Linde to develop, at scale, a new industrial-scale conversion technology needed to upgrade algae biomass into crude oil. Linde has made the decision to invest the engineering time, and in return the two companies will co-market the new technology globally, as well as employing it at the Green Crude Farm.

Written by Jim Lane. To read the full article, click here.

BP Calls Off Sale of US Wind Business

New Hampshire, USA — Four months after announcing it would put its U.S. wind business on the auction block, BP reportedly is calling off the prospective sale, saying that it has determined that the timing isn’t right — though the fate of that business remains undetermined.

After receiving an undisclosed number of bids, “the company has determined that now is not the right time to sell the business,” said Matt Hartwig, a spokesperson for BP America and its Alternative Energy business, in an e-mail exchange. He wouldn’t address details of the sale process, its participants, or the bids that BP received, which he characterized as “commercially sensitive.”

BP’s wind businesses here in the U.S. encompasses 2.6 gigawatts (GW) of generating capacity spread across 16 farms in operation across nine states (Texas, Indiana, Colorado, Kansas, California, South Dakota, Idaho, Hawaii, and Pennsylvania), with another ~2 GW of projects in development “nearly shovel-ready,” according to the company.

Written by James Montgomery. To read the full article, click here.

City of Palo Alto, California to Switch to 100% Renewable Energy Sources

This week the city council in Palo Alto, California voted in favor of sourcing all the town’s energy needs from clean, renewable sources. Effective immediately, the city will use 100% carbon-free electricity. And best of all, the move towards 100% clean energy won’t cost Palo Alto residents much; The town estimates that the switch will add just $3 per year to the average homeowner’s energy bill.

Palo Alto owns all of its own utilities, which makes it easy for the town to control where its energy is coming from. And it’s one of only a handful of cities across the world that can claim to run on 100% renewable energy. The city currently gets 50% of its power from hydro-electric dams. In addition to hydro energy, the town buys wind and solar energy, and it also uses methane gas that is captured from landfills. If, for some reason, all of the city’s energy needs can’t be filled with renewable sources, the town says that it will use renewable energy certificates to purchase non-renewable power.

“Palo Alto has been a leader in reducing its carbon emissions,“ Mayor Greg Scharff told the Palo Alto Patch, “but when we realized we could achieve a carbon neutral electric supply right now, we were compelled to take action. Climate change is one of the critical challenges of our generation and we hope our actions will inspire others to follow suit.”

Written by Mark Boyer. To read the full article, click here.

Charging Your Electric Vehicle with Solar Energy

Here’s a good article that analyzes the eco-friendliness of electric transportation that makes a point that I try to emphasize in my discussions on the subject: the EV “selection effect.” The vast majority of EV buyers at this point make their decision based on their interest in protecting and preserving the environment, and are extremely likely to charge their cars with solar energy, i.e., “green people buy green cars and green electricity.”

The article (and those it links to) makes the usual error, however, of discussing the average preponderance of coal in the grid-mix, as if this has bearing on the validity of EVs from an ecologic standpoint. The real question, of course, is: Where does the energy come from when you put an incremental load on the grid in most portions of the U.S. in the middle of the night? And the answer, because it’s the least expensive form of baseload, is coal.

But again, let’s not lose sight of the selection effect. As the gentleman interviewed says, “At least 56 percent of all EV owners in California, who make up 35 percent of EV owners in the U.S., either have or are installing solar panels in their homes, according to the Center for Sustainable Energy, California.”

Written by 2GreenEnergy. To read the full article, click here.

The US solar industry puts people to work in all 50 states

According to The Solar Foundation’s (TSF) recently released interactive map, California has more solar workers than actors; more Texans work in solar than ranching; and the U.S. solar industry has more workers than the coal mining industry. Those findings and many more were discovered by The Solar Foundation team, led by Andrea Luecke, as they put together comprehensive solar job data about all fifty U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
The data were then put into an interactive map, screenshots of which you can view below. You can access the map in its entirety, here. The map shows how the states measure up in terms of solar employment, key solar policies and number of homes powered by solar energy. TSF’s National Solar Jobs Census 2012 and the Solar Energy Industries Association’s National Solar Database were analyzed along with other sources of data to develop the map.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that most of the high ranking states in terms of installed solar capacity also proved to have the most solar jobs.

Written by Jennifer Runyon. To read the full article, click here.

Tesla & Solar: A Glimpse of the New Energy Economy

If you want a glimpse of what the nascent new energy economy looks like, pull off Interstate 5 in Southern California just before the steep climb through the Tejon Pass. There amid a cluster of fast-food joints you’ll find three Tesla Motors Superchargers sitting under a canopy of solar panels.

The 480-volt Superchargers, which resemble white mini versions of the monolith in “2001: A Space Odyssey,” add 150 miles of range to the Tesla’s Model S luxury electric sports sedan in 30 minutes. With six Supercharger stations in operation in California, Model S drivers can make a carbon-free dash down the coast from San Francisco to Los Angeles — or to Lake Tahoe or Las Vegas — without those nervous glances at the car’s battery range indicator. And the cost? Not a penny if you’re a Model S owner.

Written by Todd Woody. To read the full article, click here.